Does philosophical knowledge presuppose a moral attitude?

A discussion of Max Scheler’s metaphilosophical thesis


  • Íngrid Vendrell Ferran Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main



Max Scheler, phenomenological metaphilosophy, scientific attitude, metaphysics, humility, virtue, essence, Platonism, love


This paper explores Max Scheler’s metaphilosophical views. In particular, the paper seeks to reconstruct and assess Scheler’s thesis according to which philosophical knowledge presupposes a moral attitude which he describes as an “act of upsurge” on the part of the whole person of the philosopher toward the essential, an act which cannot be found in either the natural worldview or the sciences. After motivating the topic in the introduction (section 1), the paper explores how Scheler approaches the question about the nature of philosophy by focusing on the type of person of the philosopher (section 2). It then examines Scheler’s claim according to which philosophy is fundamentally distinct from the sciences (section 3), before exploring the moral attitude of the philosopher by examining three of its conditions: love, self-humbling, and self-mastery (section 4). The paper presents some challenges and objections against Scheler’s metaphilosophical thesis. In particular, critiques of its metaphysical implications and of the view of science implicit in it are provided (section 5). Finally, it is also argued that the thesis contains a grain of truth and as such a moderate interpretation of it could be defended (section 6). The main findings are summarized in the conclusion (section 7).


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